PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - State lawmakers would be prohibited from accepting campaign contributions during the General Assembly session under legislation introduced by state Rep. Spencer Dickinson.
The bill, Dickinson said, is designed to curb public perception that legislation is too often influenced by fundraising.
"Fundraisers, especially the big leadership fundraisers right around budget time look bad, and they are bad," Dickinson, D-South Kingstown, told WPRI.com. "This bill is something the people want. And I wouldn't be surprised to see support for this bill coming from a few lobbyists."
Fifteen states already restrict lawmakers from accepting campaign contributions during the legislative session, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut and Vermont do not allow lobbyists to make campaign contributions during the session.
Dickinson's legislation, which was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, was met with opposition from House Speaker Gordon Fox, who said the bill wouldn't stop lawmakers from building their campaign war chests when the session ends or just before it begins.
"With this bill, there would be Fourth of July-themed fund-raisers just after session or Christmas/Hanukkah fundraisers just before session begins," Fox said in a statement to WPRI.com. "Lobbyists and supporters attend these events regardless of the time of year."
Fox raised $101,350 during the 2012 legislative session, according to a review of campaign finance records by WPRI.com. Dickinson raised $950.
The two Democrats clashed last fall when Dickinson supported Fox's opponent, Mark Binder, in the November election. Fox filed a campaign finance complaint against Dickinson for spending $3,820 on a campaign mailer after he'd already made the maximum $1,000 contribution to Binder's campaign.
Common Cause Rhode Island executive director John Marion told WPRI.com that he believes the best way to eliminate the influence of money in the General Assembly would be to publicly finance campaigns, but he said his organization would support Dickinson's bill.
"It doesn't make sense to mix lawmaking and fundraising the way we do in this state and this could be a first step in fixing things," Marion said.
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